1:00 pm on Thursday 23rd June 2016 at Tibung primary school saw traditional leaders of Tibung, the Kumbungu District coordinating director and his deputy, staff and pupils of Tibung and Yipelgu primary schools, representative from Ghana Education Service, Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), Partnership for Child (PCD) and Association of Church Development Programme (ACDEP) come together to launch the orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) Ghana School Feeding Programme pilot project. Sweetpotato farmers, vine multipliers, researchers and marketers also graced the occasion. The International Potato Center (CIP), together with its partners, in collaboration with the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) has identified Tibung and Yipelgu primary schools in the Kumbungu district of the Northern Region to pilot the use of OFSP in its ongoing school feeding program. The primary purpose for this initiative is to improve the nutritional and health status of pupils and their households using OFSP, the Vitamin A powerhouse.
During the launch, the chairperson, Mr. Iddrisu Musah, District Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Kumbungu welcomed all participants to the gathering and stated how honored he was to be the chairperson of such an important initiative which aims to secure the health and nutrition of the children of Kumbungu using OFSP.
Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato in diet
Dr. Putri Ernawati Abidin, a scientist at CIP in Ghana and Project Manager for the Jumpstarting Project provided an overview of the project emphasizing the importance of vitamin A in the diet of children as well as other nutritional benefits associated with Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato. She also highlighted that the Jumpstarting project, since its inception in 2014, is gaining grounds in the production and marketing of OFSP in West- Africa, specifically in Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Dr. Abidin used the opportunity to relate the GSFP-OFSP pilot initiative to the overall goal of the Jumpstarting project, “Sustainable and inclusive market driven approaches for orange-fleshed sweetpotato to increase incomes and improve health through consumption of vitamin A rich OFSP, especially in women and children”. Dr. Abidin further emphasized that it can be seen that incorporating OFSP in children’s meals directly satisfies the primary outcomes of increasing Vitamin A consumption and incomes of farming household. Dr. Abidin also shared some experiences drawn from success stories recorded by CIP in Osun State, Nigeria in 2015 regarding school feeding. She also outlined the project plan for the remaining four weeks before school holidays which included among other things; feeding the school children ‘OFSP-rich meals’ once a week for the 4 weeks. This will be done in collaboration with various stakeholders including caterers, Famers, GSFP among others.
During her speech, The National Programme Manager of the Partnership for Child Development (PCD), Mrs. Gertrude Ananse Baiden emphasized the importance of this initiative and how these partners are interrelated. She highlighted their role in the partnership with CIP, their main interest being that children benefit from nutritious meals to enhance their health physically and intellectually, eventually improving their cognition to achieve better education, resulting in better people in future. She added that the initiative will go a long way in generating income and wealth for farmers in communities who have embraced school feeding programs as it will create a ready market for their produce. Mrs. Ananse Baiden concluded by saying, “It is our hope that we would all accept this initiative and give it our utmost support. If that happens we would be able to scale up to more schools and more districts and once we are able to do this, we are already achieving SDGs 1-4; No poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, and quality education”.
The district coordinating director Mr. Abdulai Issifu, on behalf of the DCE, delivered the key note address. He expressed his appreciation to all partners for choosing to work with the district for a greater good. The coordinating director reiterated the nutritional value of OFSP and its benefits to children. He also expressed his commitment in encouraging caterers under the GSFP to prepare meals that include OFSP for the school children. Mr. Abdulai also appealed to farmers to supply the caterers with quality produce at affordable prices to enable them factor OFSP into their school menu. He added that, the introduction of this crop into the district has provided farmers with the opportunity to generate more income than before. He encouraged farmers within the district to take up the challenge, a move they would never regret.
The district coordinating director, together with the programme manager of PCD declared the GSFP-OFSP pilot program officially launched and gave their blessings. They announced that every Thursday is an OFSP MEALS DAY for Tibung and Yipelgu primary schools. They urged all stakeholders to play an active part in making the initiative become a success. This was done alongside musical interlude from the cultural troupe.
Participants were entertained with a massive display of African culture by the cultural dance and arts troupe from Kumbungu. The event was climaxed with a display of various Orange fleshed Sweetpotato recipes that were developed to suit local conditions. Recipes displayed include; Swakye, OFSP Leafe stew, Mpotompoto, Chips, Root & Leaf Juice, Tubani etc.(shown in attachment) . Most participants were amazed at the variety of nutritious recipes that could be made from the Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato. The pupils were given an opportunity to taste recipes of OFSP that will be included in the school menu. They were all excited about the new experience and attested to the fact that the meals are indeed delicious. The organizers of the event also used the platform to conduct a sensory (taste assessment) regarding the three recipes to be included on the menu for the pupils. This is to help them identify the pupils preferences and associated reasons.
The GSFP launch at Tibung primary school was a huge success. All the collaborating partners demonstrated a high level of commitment and enthusiasm to make this nutrition initiative truly successful. The goal is to make the initiative sustainable and use this model to scale up across the country.